THE ROMANCE REVIEWS 4th Anniversary Party

trrIt’s a month long celebration and I’m there! Well, I’ll be there tomorrow for a Question & Answer type game.   I’m offering up an ebook copy of Drive Me Sane to the person who wins.  And along with me, there are hundreds of other authors with prizes galore!  Head on over to The Romance Reviews for all the details.  Please note that you must be registered and logged into their site to take part in the giveaways.

I must admit, I’m partial to this site.  Unknown to me, my publisher submitted Drive Me Sane to them for a review.  Needless to say, I was beyond words and in tears with their response.  No lie!  I bawled like a baby.

You can find Angi’s 4 Star Review here or below:

“They fell in love as teens but their fears and frustrations as young adults drove them apart. Years have passed and, now, both their lives are on a downward spiral. An unforeseen chance to reconnect is the second chance they both desperately need to exorcise old hurts, as well as conquer the troubles that are currently holding each of them hostage.

Discharged from the Army and suffering PTSD after a tour in Afghanistan, Sera Cavins makes a quiet return to her Uncle Roy’s empty home in Kentucky to attempt to get her broken life back together. The remorse, regret, and guilt she feels has manifested into fears she’s not ready to confess to anyone. Finding her former fiancé Tyler Creech at her uncle’s home brings back even older hurts that make it doubly hard for Sera to hide the many secrets that steal her peace of mind and sap her wounded spirit.

Up and coming country music star Tyler Creech’s life is being consumed by the demands of his career, and his life no longer seems his own. The mounting pressure is taking both a physical and mental toll on him, so a few weeks’ hiatus at his mother and stepfather Roy’s home in Kentucky is where he hopes to work through some of the issues that are leaving him sleepless and torn. He never expected to run into Sera Cavins, the woman who pushed him away and who still haunts him with unresolved heartache and regrets.

If they can bear to share the same roof, maybe they can finally uncover the reasons behind their broken engagement and broken lives, let go the pain and fear and, finally, heal and move forward together.

Debut author Dena Rogers makes a spectacular entrance to the field of romance with this nicely paced emotional tale that’s sole focus is on mending broken hearts and broken lives. In my humble opinion, one can’t help but applaud the author’s tackling of the subject of PTSD in a former female soldier, and I thought her handling of the subject was relevant, vividly moving, and very well done.

With regards to Sera, I found her attempts to repress her emotions, as a means of self-protection, to be utterly convincing and understandable, even though I found I didn’t always like her when she engaged these defense mechanisms. Ms. Rogers nicely countered Sera’s actions with the often understated actions of Tyler, whom she characterized with the compassionate ability to understand and sense Sera’s needs in the face of his own troubled emotions. This balance of give and take in characterization truly enhanced the gradual changes in this couple’s relationship and kept the plot moving with new revelations and just enough valid recriminations to keep Tyler and Sera’s relationship grounded and real.

Despite the novella length of DRIVE ME SANE, this tale has lots of depth, adequate back story, and there are few psychological or emotional issues that are left untouched. Crafting such a compelling story in approximately one hundred pages is a feat that deserves recognition and surely designates Dena Rogers as a talented new author to watch.”

From Wildcats to Magic & Becoming a Published Author

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” (Little Gidding)” ― T.S. Eliot

Book-iPad-wallpaper-Flying-Letters

If you would have asked me a year ago today what I’d expect to be doing in a year, I can guarantee that my answer wouldn’t have been writing a blog post.  I probably would have answered that I’d be enjoying some time off from work with my family, reading or maybe working on some writing-not one of my work in progress, but writings.  Because a year ago, I never looked at my work as anything but something I enjoyed doing, nor did I consider myself an author.  But here I am!

I have a published book!   Some days I’m still awed by the fact.  A published book!  Yes, I did that!  I went out on a limb, took a chance and my dream came true.  Drive Me Sane was a story that simply flowed out of me. I immensely enjoyed writing it and my only hope was that a few others would like it just as much as I did.  Having 19 five-star reviews, 4 four-star reviews and 1 three-star review on Amazon, has by far surpassed my expectations and I cannot thank you all enough!

I have learned so much along the way.  A year ago, I didn’t have a blog.  My blog was essentially created so that I could write about my excitement and despair after Kentucky lost to UCONN in the NCAA championship game. Shortly afterwards, I got the news that Crimson Romance wanted to acquire Drive Me Sane and so, I took off trying to transverse the world of marketing (still trying, I’m terrible at it) and geared my post toward more writing/book related topics (I’m terrible at that too.)  I now have nearly every social media site available and although I’m better at keeping up with some more than others, I’m getting the hang of things.

It has been an incredible journey and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone.  For the friends I’ve made (Bill & E.L, you’re awesome), for those that follow along and listen to me ramble, for anyone who’s read my work or given advise when needed. I truly appreciate it.  I’m still learning, but I am moving into 2015 with another finished manuscript that I hope I can sprinkle some magic on and turn it into something that others will also enjoy.

Wishing you all a joy filled New Year! Never give up on your dreams!

P.S.  Big rivalry game today when the UK Wildcats take on Louisville Cardinals.  Two great teams but only one can win.  Go Big Blue!

MY DREADED REVIEW

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about whether reviews really mattered.  At the time, it was my most popular post, driving in more traffic and comments than anything I had previously written.  In case you didn’t see it, I’ll catch you up.  As a reader, I’ve never been one to care about book reviews.  Other’s opinions about a prospective book have never swayed whether I’ll read something or not, but as a writer, I’ve come to realize how heavily reviews do impact other readers.  When I made the decision to pursue publication, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in reviews and honestly, so far I’ve done pretty well. That was until Mr. Yancy Caruthers contacted me about reviewing my book.  I’ll give you the short version of my concerns.  Drive Me Sane, centers around Tyler, a musician and Sera, an army veteran suffering from PTSD after a deployment to Afghanistan.  Mr. Caruthers is an army veteran who served two deployments in Iraq.  I did not see this review going well.  It made me reconsider everything I’d written and whether or not I accurately portrayed Sera’s condition or totally mess up the military aspects of the story. My first instincts were to decline the offer, but after careful thought, I sent it to him anyway.  With that being said, here is my dreaded review:

“I don’t generally read light romance, but I was intrigued by Sera, a combat vet trying to make sense of real life again as she deals with Tyler, a spectre from her life before war. The opening scene made me think, “Okay, now I’ve got to read this.” What I found is that Rogers has the ability to write a light, readable story that took me through the gamut of reactions to the two main characters – at various times I thought they were thoughtful, irritating, kind, and mean to each other, and never at the same time. What I like the most about Drive Me Sane was the constant, alternating frustration that each of them felt as the relationship developed – it felt genuinely warm and at the same time cut a little bit.

Anyone looking for a decent love story that reads effortlessly, pick up a copy. ”

In all fairness and with Mr. Caruthers permission, I’d also like to share some of his thoughts that he personally conveyed to me.  Yes, not only did I get a good review, but I was also fortunate enough to get some honest feedback.

“This reads very smoothly, and you are doing more showing than telling and I like that.  When she started throwing rocks at his truck, I figured out that she wasn’t going to be happy to see him.  Kudos to that scene, although it could do with a little bit more fire.  Combat vets get angry a lot more colorfully.”

“I wouldn’t normally read romance, but the military tie-in intrigued me.  I haven’t yet found any inconsistencies, save one.  Most military folks don’t use the PTSD label.  There’s still a stigma to it, as the label is still associated with whiners and check-chasers (and I’ve met several of each).  For most of us, it’s just a collection of symptoms.  There are nightmares and loud noises and crowds and fireworks and anger and isolation.  But we don’t generally lump all that together and throw it in the same bag – not when we are referring to ourselves.  An official diagnosis is a certain number of these symptoms, but most war vets have at least one or two.”

“Your style is very light and easy to read and the pacing is flawless – something I don’t see too much.  It’s a little heavy on narrative and I would consider breaking up some of the longer paragraphs.  It’s grammatically correct, but shorter paragraphs are easier to digest.  I have no idea why.”

“Finished your book – loved the way it ended. I’m not a reader of light romance…It’s well written, decently edited, and very easy to read (I know I’ve said that three or four times, but it’s true).  You’ll recognize my review on Amazon when it posts. Cheers and happy writing.”

So there was some good with the bad and I’m okay with that. And I’m definitely okay with sharing it.  More than anything, I appreciate his honesty and come to realize that reviews do matter.  Maybe not as a reader, at least not to me.  But as a writer they can be a valuable tool. I’m happy to take the constructive criticism and learn from it.

Thank you, Yancy, for your kindness and honesty.
A final thought, Mr. Caruthers did not inform me that he had written a memoir of his time in Iraq.  I found that out on my own after I sent him a copy of Drive Me Sane for review–Yes, I check people out:).  However I do look forward to reading Northwest of Eden soon.  You can find it on Amazon.